Mauritius is a beautiful and until now very safe destination for families to vacation. I have happy memories of vacationing there some years back. I particularly remember watching my son wolf down plates of fresh, delicious fruits for breakfast while little sparrows hopped about seeking crumbs under the tables. My son’s love for fresh coconut water also began in Mauritius. How shocked I was to learn from forthright, ethical scrutineer and travel writer, Caroline Hurry who is the founder of Travelwrite, that this tiny island will now be growing genetically modified sugar cane which is a main export. I remember vast fields of sugar cane covering this tiny island.
This just doesn’t make sense, particularly after reading a press release from January 2016 that the Minister of Agro-Industry and Food Security, Mr Mahen Kumar Seeruttun, elaborated on a Strategic Plan 2016-2020 for the Food Crop, Livestock and Forestry sectors which is formulated to take Mauritius to a higher level of food security whilst respecting the need for safe food and better nutrition of the population.
Proponents of GM technology claim that the major benefits of adopting the GM technology is that it can potentially reduce the cost of production of sugar cane by decreasing the variable cost associated with weed management. What of the true costs though? Cost of population health? Cost to soil health? Cost to organic food production?
Mauritius has great fertile soil but because of it’s size, food production is limited by land availability so it is a net importer of food. On 3 September 2015, the Ministry of Agro Industry and Food Security and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) signed a Technical Cooperation Project (TCP) on support for the development of Organic farming and institutional capacity building in Mauritius.
Under the TCP, the FAO will assist Mauritius to strengthen national capabilities on organic agriculture through proposed amendments to legislation, draft of secondary regulations, develop strategic plans and training manuals. It also makes provision for the training of farmers, researchers, programme managers and technicians. So what impact does this new turn of events have on the implementation of this agreement? What impact will it have on the organic food sector in Mauritius? Is organic food compromised? Will it be contaminated? What safeguards are in place? So many questions that we will probably never know the answers to.
What an absolute lost opportunity for true nutritional food security and for Mauritius to be a shining star in the Indian Ocean if the TCP agreement is not valued by the Mauritian government above weed eradication.
See original story on Travelwrite here.
The Indian Ocean Island has embraced GMO foods, banned in many countries
reports CAROLINE HURRY
Wait, more sun, more sea … Monsanto? Mauritius, how could you? It’s bad enough that the South African government foisted GMO on our population, without once consulting the people it purports to serve, but you too?
How will you explain to all your visitors from one of the 38 countries where GMO is banned or at the very least being reconsidered, that your sugar, among so many other products, is riddled with GMO? There’s no labeling, no warning,rien!
This is what I asked the Mauritian Tourism Promotions Authority via their PR company, which responded with some guff about the island being a “keen participant in sustainable tourism initiatives” and the tourism sector “working to position itself as a green industry leader across the world” – a bit rich when the Mauritian biodiversity is in crisis.
Their Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security is hell bent on culling the threatened, endemic Mauritian flying fox (Pteropus niger) despite all the scientific evidence from the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, as supported in a letter by Bat Conservation International to the Ministry and as discussed by the IUCN SSC Bat Specialist Group in their position statement last year. Last time I looked there was less than 3% of natural forest left, but hey.
You’ll note, there was no answer to my actual question, but what CAN they say? Clearly the spin doctors hope that by sticking to the well-worn “swaying palm trees and azure waters” script, nobody will notice the evil monster in the midst of Paradise.
But we DO notice and tourists DO care – deeply – about the provenance of their food. I will not visit Mauritius again until there is at least clear labelling, but I’m not holding my breath. Mauritian people are among the nicest in the world, but if I choose not to eat GMO food in my own country why would I travel at some expense to an Indian Ocean Island to have it foisted on me?
Agrees Sonia Mountford, founder of Eategrity: “I’ve been to Mauritius and had been thinking to go again but decided on Sri Lanka instead. The news that Mauritius has embraced GMO is extremely concerning since so much of the land is sugarcane. How much glyphosate is being used and contaminating the rest of the island? Even the tourists will be unaware of the probable carcinogen they are being exposed to.
“I prefer to holiday in countries that have decided to take a cautionary approach and not poison their citizens – and tourists. Sri Lanka has become the second country to fully ban the sale of glyphosate herbicides following El Salvador’s decision in 2013. Bermuda has also put a temporary ban on glyphosate imports and is holding a review.”
Noting that, “no research had so far proven that GMOs were risk free” for consumers, Mosadeq Sahebdin, spokesman for The Institute for Consumer Protection (ICP) in Mauritius said it was “deplorable” that “the precautionary principle” was not applied to GMOs, pooh-poohing the idea that the introduction of GMOs would increase production, saying nowhere had this ever been proven.
Agreed environmental activist and leader of the #RoundUpOut campaign, Rushka Johnson: ” It is worrying that Mauritius don’t take the concerns of the toxic, cancer-causing herbicide Glyphosate seriously. As a holiday destination where people hope to breathe fresh air, eat healthy food, and enjoy nature they should be more cautious. Many countries have chosen to ban GMO and glyphosphate. Mauritius should do the same. ”